By on January 18, 2012

When a car company removes itself from Racing, it usually has one of two reasons:

  1. The company was luckless on the racecourse and just can’t stomach paying for losing.
  2. The company is in dire straits financially, and spending money for frivolous ventures such as car racing just doesn’t look right.

For France’s Peugeot, it’s both.

According to Reuters, PSA Peugeot Citroen will withdraw from Le Mans endurance racing. They say it’s the money. “This decision has been taken in the context of a difficult economic environment in Europe,” a company statement says. Reuters explains:

“Europe’s second-biggest car maker is struggling to rein in costs and revive flagging sales after a series of profit warnings. In October, Chief Executive Philippe Varin announced plans to save an additional 800 million euros ($1.03 billion) this year, including some 6,000 job cuts.”

As we saw yesterday, PSA lost a full point of market share in Europe last year, sales were down 8 percent. That while #1 rival Volkswagen took two points of market share and expanded its EU sales by 7.5 percent.

But then, there is that other reason, again the words of Reuters:

“Peugeot last claimed victory in the 89-year-old Le Mans 24 Hours contest in 2009, before losing to Volkswagen’s Audi team in the following two seasons.”

Now THAT is intolerable. Losing market share to le boche is one thing. But losing market share AND Le Mans is impardonnable!

Let’s say it’s for financial reasons and blame the difficult economic environment in Europe, oui?

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15 Comments on “PSA Withdraws From Le Mans, Claims It’s The Money...”

  • avatar

    Peugeot may have lost to Audi at Le Mans in 2010 and 2011 but the racing was excellent. The Peugeots were faster but the Audis were more reliable. This is a real blow to sports car racing fans everywhere because, without the good stiff competition from the French, Audi may leave as well.

    • 0 avatar

      Crap. I hope Audi doesn’t leave. I REALLY wanted to go to Petit Le Mans last year to see the R18, but family came first and I didn’t go. Every year it’s been one of those things where you roll your eyes in defeat because you know you are obligated to go to the other thing going on that weekend. The R18 is gorgeous and I want to see it on the track. Would have been cool to see the Peugeot as well.

      The first and last time I was able to go was 2001. I’ll never forget the twin turbo V8 and how quiet it was, especially for a racing engine. I hear (no pun intended) the TDI engines are even quieter than the original gasoline V8s. Saleens, ‘Vettes and LMPs with big American NA V8s were deafening by comparison.

      • 0 avatar

        I got to see an R10 in qualifying down at the St. Petersburg GP when ALMS was the support series for the IndyCar race. It was surreal watching the R10 make laps, the whistling of the turbos was louder than the exhaust note. If one of the GT1 corvettes was nearby you couldn’t hear it at all, and they were wicked fassst..

      • 0 avatar

        The R18 is many things, but gorgeous is not one of them. Now that the front wheels are the same size as the back, it looks ungainly. Insanely fast, menacing, intimidating, and technologically astonishing come to mind.

        Now, the R15, that was a real looker.

      • 0 avatar

        Petit Le Mans isn’t on the endurance series schedule, so if you want to catch them you should book a flight to Sebring.

    • 0 avatar

      Maybe Toyota will be able to put up a good fight with their entry into LMP1.

    • 0 avatar

      This is true. It takes two to tango. Chevrolet learned this painful lesson in ALMS when everybody else left GT1.

      • 0 avatar

        The big issue is to how to balance the performance of the diesels (Peugeot and Audi) and the gasoline engines (Aston Martin, Honda, Toyota, and possibly others). The ACO has consistently tilted the field toward the diesels (to show that racing can be ‘green’). However, this means that car companies without diesel road cars then have little incentive to race in the prototype class at Le Mans…

  • avatar

    I wonder if this is part of their retention of Sebastian Loeb for the WRC. They probably saved a bucket losing Ogier and signing Hirvonen as their second driver. And will the money will be spent beefing up PSA S2000 and 1600T class cars to compete against Skoda and the new VW derived from it?

    Or maybe they’re going to be really dumb and waste it on F1.

    • 0 avatar

      Le Mans and FIA Endurance series program is a tens of millions sort of thing. signing Hirvonen vs Ogier is perhaps a few million, if that. there are very few people talented enough to be top-line WRC drivers (I have more fingers) and other than Loeb, I don’t imagine any of them are making huge money. F1 it’s not.

      the money will be spent on actual production vehicles which they think will make them money, not polishing their brand image with a marketing program (all racing is, regardless of “racing improves the breed spin”) which looks bad in the light of continent-wide austerity programs.

  • avatar

    PSA may feel they get better exposure through less traditional medium.

  • avatar

    Bertel, I question the logic of your definition of “luckless on the racecourse”. Because these are the FACTS about Peugeot, and it would be a shame if the readers here who are less aware of racing didn’t know it:

    – 14 victories in the last 16 races
    – ILMC series championship winners two years running, 2010 and 2011

    A further “truth about cars” disclosure – Peugeot doesn’t sell cars where I live and I like both Audi and Peugeot in endurance/ALMS racing.

  • avatar

    I also have to disagree with your conclusions Bertel. First, for the reasons’s articulated above by doubjp. Yes, they have had only limited success at the 24 hours of Le Mans itself, but both version of the 908 have be strong, if not dominant over the Audi R10/15/18 competition in just about every other race, so there has been no shortage of on track success. Secondly, I question whether the $ being spent is the issue. Yes, the program is expensive, but much of the heavy lifting was already done. The car is well developed, and most of the testing and work for this year was completed. The race crew is not being let go, simply reassigned to other tasks in the company, so the labor savings are minimal. Even then, if the travel expenses were the issue, they need not have run the whole championship. Toyota is only competing in select races this year, and Audi and Peugeot have done the same in the past. They could have done Sebring (pre Le Mans test) the European home soil biggies (Le Mans and Silverstone) and maybe China (not sure how big PSA’s presence is there). I seriously doubt the ACO would have refused a Le Mans invite to the home team just because they withdrew from the full championship. My guess is that this was more about PR and the flack the PSA board (they were the ones who put the kabosh on it) was worried about getting in the media (and perhaps from shareholders) in France over spending this amount of $ on the race program while laying off large numbers of workers back home. It was obviously a fast, spur of the moment decision, as the team had literally just set up in the paddock at Sebring to start testing, having already undertaken the effort to ship the whole shebang across the Atlantic, and was making decisions about what their campaign for the coming year would look like (like possibly debuting a hybrid of their own).

  • avatar

    Actually, you could argue that Peugeot has had great success at Le Mans: in 2009 they broke Audi’s string of 9 outright victories from 2000 to 2008.* Not even the once mighty Porsche tried to break the Audi stranglehold (and now being part of VAG probably will never try, rumors to the contrary).

    I would add that Peugeot was carrying the flag not just for PSA but for the entire French nation against the Germans and all other nationalities. Don’t underestimate the importance to the French people of winning the most important auto race held on French soil.

    * 2003 was won by Bentley (a subsidiary of VAG) using a Bentley chassis but an Audi engine.

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